Rabbi sues, saying Broward jail made him take off yarmulke

Rabbi Berl Zweibel claims deputies at the Broward Jail made him remove his yarmulke, violating his civil rights.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Rabbi Berl Zweibel says his civil rights were violated at the Broward County Jail when they forced him to remove his yarmulke, a religious head covering.

A civil rights lawsuit filed was filed against the Broward Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

On April 25, 2019, Zweibel was taken to jail for failing to appear in court on a traffic citation that he says he never got notice of.

According to this lawsuit, the rabbi was forced to remove his yarmulke. He resisted. The lawsuit alleges that the deputy at the jail “using a firm voice responded by stating that we do not care about that. That doesn’t work over here.”

A yarmulke is an important part of the rabbi’s faith, and Zweibel says he was forced to not wear it for his 12 hours behind bars. Orthodox Jews must wear a head covering when they eat and pray.

“Each person is entitled to their religious freedom,” Zweibel’s attorney Michael Citron said.

Zweibel says “there should be more sensitivity.”

Citron says there is not a statewide ban on inmates wearing yarmulkes. He said he has visited inmates in state prisons who wear them.

“This does not just apply to Jewish males,” Citron said. “This applies to anyone. Whether they are wearing a hijab, a turban a keffiyeh.

“When you are behind bars you are not without rights, especially when it comes to your faith.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says they do allow inmates to wear approved religious head coverings. Their policy in part reads: “Inmates will be allowed to wear approved liturgical apparel in their cell, dayroom, and to and from religious services.”

BSO said it couldn’t comment further because of the pending litigation but their policy states that Zweibel should have been allowed to keep his yarmulke on if it was approved.

About the Author:

Reporter Rosh Lowe has been covering news for nearly two decades in South Florida. He joined Local 10 in 2021.